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HomeNewsGerman Warship Wreck Near Folkestone Given Heritage Protection

German Warship Wreck Near Folkestone Given Heritage Protection

The wreck of a German battleship that sank in the Channel in 1878 after being accidentally rammed has been given heritage protection.

Historic England announced a memorial in a Folkestone cemetery to the 284 men who lost their lives on the SMS Grosser Kurfurst would also be listed at Grade II.

The announcement reveals a fascinating if tragic episode in 19th-century naval history. In 1878 Britain and Germany were at peace and the Grosser Kurfürst and the König Wilhelm, another German warship, were preparing for annual summer training exercises off the coast of Kent.

The warships came across a pair of sailing ships and attempted to get out of their way. A lack of room for manoeuvre led to the König Wilhem ramming the Grosser Kurfürst, which sank in the span of about eight minutes, taking between 269 and 284 of her 500 man crew with her.

Some were rescued by Kent fishing boats. Bodies were washing on to the shore for days to come. Most would have been below deck when the collision took place. Many of the recovered bodies were interred in Cheriton Road cemetery in Folkestone and a memorial, paid for by German sailors, was made by the sculptor Eduard Lürssen.

it is quite an unusual ship, as it is lying upside down on the seabed

The shipwreck has been scheduled and added to the national heritage list for England, which means recreational divers can dive the wreck but its contents have protection. The Grosser Kurfürst is interesting because it falls in an experimental period of naval warfare, between wooden sailing ships with cannons and the Dreadnought battleships of the first world war.

The shipwreck has been scheduled and added to the national heritage list for England, which means recreational divers can dive the wreck but its contents have protection. It is unlikely there would be a huge amount of contents left, if it has been sitting on the seabed for over 100 years.

The Grosser Kurfürst is interesting because it falls in an experimental period of naval warfare, between wooden sailing ships with cannons and the Dreadnought battleships of the first world war.

Never one to miss an opportunity, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins, welcomed the news. “The monument is an important reminder of Anglo-German friendship and solidarity in times of disaster, to be remembered as well as times of enmity.”

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